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date: 21 August 2019

Recent Trends in Global Philosophy

Abstract and Keywords

This part of the book examines globalization and how it continues to transform philosophy. Non-Western philosophical communities are becoming more prominent in the global philosophical sphere, and the problems non-Western philosophers analyse, the solutions they put forward, and the ideas they inject into world philosophy are coming to center stage. This part of the book outlines the analysis to follow, which illustrates a number of aspects of globalization, such as global feminism, Native American philosophy, environmental philosophy, cosmopolitanism, and the theory of reparations.

Keywords: globalization, feminism, Native American philosophy, environmental philosophy, cosmopolitanism, theory of reparations

Globalization has transformed philosophy and continues to transform philosophy. Non-Western philosophical communities are becoming more prominent in the global philosophical conversation, and the problems non-Western philosophers address, the solutions they propose, and the ideas they inject into world philosophy are coming to center stage. Constructive and critical exchanges between philosophical communities are increasing as new journals emerge. These interactions invite new thinking about philosophy itself—its history, scope, and boundaries; its relation to colonialism and its engagement with contemporary global concerns, such as environmental degradation and entrenched inequalities; and the ability of a discipline with mainly theoretical and abstract resources to engage with such concrete matters as transnational compensatory justice and fair inclusion and/or recognition without denial of difference.

The chapters in this section illustrate two aspects of globalization. First, increased interaction augments and alters existing or traditional philosophical conversations. Questions, problems, approaches, or presuppositions that might have appeared obvious or universal from a Eurocentric perspective often appear irrelevant, partial, or misguided when other vantage points are taken seriously. Feminism, environmentalism, and indigenous perspectives represent profound challenges to many aspects of European-inherited philosophy. Diverse experiences of gender, maternity, relationships, work, culture, and models of empowerment confront Western conceptions of and political priorities with respect to women, sexuality, family, and power. Diverse understandings of authenticity, representation, ownership, and rights to self-determination test and extend some (Western or liberal) assumptions about forms of and groundings for equalities and freedoms. Indigenous (p. 546) groups' understandings of and concerns about collective ownership and authorship, attitudes to ancestral remains, and rights over land, intellectual property, and creative works challenge an array of Western practices and philosophical assumptions. These new, or newly communicated, ways of thinking are important not just for their interest to philosophy, but also because a world facing climatic, population, and environmental challenges demands the resources of our best ideas.

Globalization also challenges us to rethink the nature of philosophy as a discipline and as a cultural activity. Previously unrecognized critical perspectives present challenges to Western philosophy as well as new opportunities for conversation and dialogue. The increased information traffic enabled by new technologies also might lead to appropriations, misrepresentations, or oversimplifications of ideas, so care and cultural competence are needed, in addition to goodwill from all sides. While many interactions with Western-style philosophy are marked by caution, recognizably philosophical ideas and approaches were never limited to the Western tradition and its academic focus. Thinkers informed by non-European traditions offer different ways of practicing philosophy, for example, in oral traditions. They challenge and encourage Western philosophers to reconsider some of the analytic categories and approaches to reasoning with which Western philosophers typically begin. Whether or not all parties welcome or accept the label “philosopher,” and while the views and modes of expression are thoroughly diverse, the emergent conversations are arguably philosophical.

The works in this section discuss and partake in some of these conversations. The selection of topics is by no means exhaustive. The neglect of many worthwhile topics reflects the constraints of a single section within a larger volume in which difficult choices were necessary. While these chapters present some introduction to contemporary global philosophy, it is only an introduction. We hope that the issues raised in this section, as well as its lacunae, will prompt further thinking about the scope of philosophy in the contemporary world.

The five chapters in this section address topics in feminism, Native American philosophy, environmental philosophy, cosmopolitanism, and the theory of reparations. These topics are increasingly prominent in recent philosophical work as philosophers contend with global concerns and reflect on features of the profession, such as the domination of the profession by the West generally, and by privileged groups from Western communities in particular.

The chapter on global feminism takes a critical perspective, providing “an account of what feminism needs to be if it is to be truly global.” It shows how feminism has shifted from a focus on erroneous assumptions that generalize from the conditions faced by some women to claims about all women, to recognize the need to respond to women's different experiences and diverse social positions in terms of race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality across countries and continents. This chapter demonstrates two important aspects of global philosophy: openness to the criticism and challenge of perspectives from beyond mainstream philosophy and the development and deployment of philosophical methods to develop and respond to such challenges.

(p. 547) The chapter on Native American philosophy also explores intersections between the philosophical mainstream and positions beyond it, in this case, the “outsider within” positions of Native American thinkers. While Eurocentric philosophers have sometimes denied that non-Western traditions can involve fully fledged philosophical practice, from their own side indigenous practitioners are sometimes explicitly reluctant to identify as philosophers, preferring to maintain their own distinct positions, and sometimes articulating robust critiques of Western philosophical practice and theory. This is an important way of engaging critically with philosophy; it resonates with some feminists' reluctance to identify as philosophers and it also motivates an interrogation of the nature of philosophy. Different Native American thinkers seek to maintain the integrity of their indigenous cultures and perspectives while mediating and negotiating with the intellectual traditions of the West in various ways.

Environmentalist philosophy has also treated Western philosophical assumptions with critical caution. Non-Western environmental philosophers, activists, and ecologists have presented views of the human relationship with the natural world that arguably avoid the anthropocentrism of much Western philosophy and form a basis for criticizing certain destructive, exploitative, and consumerist practices that are identified with the globally rich countries and corporations of the West. Significant ecofeminist work is initiated outside Western mainstream cultures and is informed by contemporary political activism as well as by alternative non-Western perspectives.

Globalization raises our awareness of the lives of distant others, and reinvigorates long-standing questions about cosmopolitanism and “our responsibilities to all in the global community.” Yet in important ways, individual identity depends on national identity, cultural, religious, or racial belonging; and the integration of these affinities or partialities into a universal theory is both important and fraught with challenges. This chapter pays particular attention to John Rawls's The Law of Peoples, a focus of recent philosophical discussions of cosmopolitanism. Globalization has also seen “common points of struggle” bring together diverse groups over concerns related, for example, to farming, unionism, environmentalism, or indigeneity. This chapter shows how current global arrangements of resources and transnational regulations challenge and inspire new reflections about justice and what it requires, both in attending to identity and affinity groups, and to the negotiation of partial and universal moral claims and duties.

Philosophy's concern with the classic questions of the nature and scope of justice demands a response to current entrenched inequalities in a postcolonial world. Recent philosophical work on the moral implications for present people of the wrongs done in the past reveals the limitations of distributive justice arguments that depend on a neutral or ahistorical starting point. The reality of widespread ongoing state-sponsored violence also forces a rethinking of the nature and scope of ethical obligations between peoples. The chapter on reparations explores the definition, justifications, and moral value of reparations, and distinguishes reparation from forgiveness and reconciliation. Like the discussion of cosmopolitanism, this (p. 548) chapter engages with Rawls's The Law of Peoples and argues for including a principle of reparations in the suite of human rights principles that would be part of a Rawlsian “realistic utopia.”

We hope that this section indicates a bit of the range of new discussions globalization has brought to philosophy and some of the range of contributions that reflective thinkers who come to philosophy from non-European traditions are making to our collective philosophical practice. We hope that it also shows the necessity of attending to the philosophical voice of the relatively marginalized or excluded majority of the world in discussions of cosmopolitanism, reparation, and justice. There is no reason to expect the positions articulated in these global discussions to converge, nor, if they do, to expect that they will converge on views advanced by European thinkers. This diversity of insights is to be celebrated.